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MAM GRAMMAR! 

by EDWARD SYWULKA^ 

There are approximately 250,000 Mam Indians living in the mountainous region of 
northwest Guatemala, though no recent census figures by department are available. 
An estimate of their distribution gives 125,000 in the Department of San Marcos, 
75,000 in the Department of Quezakenango, and 50,000 in the Department of 
Huehuetenango. Although each town has its own dialect, there is a general similarity 
in the dialects of any one region. The basis of the present study is the dialect of San 
Ildefonso Ixtahuacan, Huehuetenango, one of the larger and more influential Indian 
communities in the area. 

Many features of the grammar are similar to those with which we are already 
famihar. Major classes of words correspond somewhat with verbs, nouns, adjectives, 
etc. as we know them. In such cases we use these familiar terms. In some of these 
major word classes a considerable number of words may be derived from words of 
another class, that is, nouns or adjectives may become verbs by the addition of 
certain suffixes. 

One interesting point in the grammatical analysis involves two sets of prefixes 

^ The phonemes of Mam are: a, a-, b', c/qu, c'/q'u, ch, ch', e, e-, i, i-, j, k, k', 1, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, 
t', tx, tx', tz, tz', u, U-, w, X, X, y, '. 

2 Data for this paper were gathered by the author during his time in the Mam Indian field, where 
he has worked since 1934 under the auspices of the Central American Mission. Mr. and Mrs. Sy- 
wulka now reside in San Sebastian H., Huehuetenango. 



MAM 179 

indicating person. One occurs with both verbs and nouns, the other only with verbs. 
Some of these prefixes vary in the singular according to whether the stem of the word 
begins with a vowel or a consonant. 

The order of words is important in sentence structure, both in terms of emphasis, 
and in distinguishing the subject from the object. 

Words which join one clause to another, such as conjunctions and relative pro- 
nouns, are much less frequent in Mam than in EngUsh or Spanish. In fact a number 
of such words have been borrowed from Spanish. 

The heart or core of the sentence is the verb word or verb phrase with its prefixes 
and suffixes, indicating person, number, subject, object, direction, voice, and aspect. 
Generally preceding the verb word are one or more words introducing the clause, 
such as question words, conjunctions, or words indicating time, aspect, condition, 
etc. Generally following the verb word are the subject and object and a variety of 
single words or phrases indicating time, place, agent, indirect object, etc; some of 
these are adverbial, others prepositional. 

1.0. Word classes are defined on the basis of the prefixes or suffixes with which they 
may occur, as well as upon their use in sentence formation. Though other classifica- 
tions are possible, for convenience the words of Mam may be divided into the follow- 
ing classes: verbs, nouns, adjectives, numerals, participles, time-aspect particles, 
place words, clause introducers, miscellaneous particles, and cHtics. 

1.1. Verbs are distinguished by their occurrence with personal prefixes or suffixes 
indicating subject or object, and their being usually preceded by particles indicating 
time or aspect: ma chepon they have arrived (verb stem pon arrive; 3rd pers. pi. 
prefix indicating the subject che they; ma, a particle indicating recent past time). 

Verbs are divided into three main groups: class 1, class II, and class III. In verbs 
of class I and class II person is indicated by a prefix to the verb stem, in verbs of class 
III person is indicated by a suffix to the verb stem : inule ew / came yesterday (in / is 
here prefixed to the verb stem ul to come or arrive); atine tuja / am in the house (in / 
is here suffixed to the verb stem, -t- to be). 

Class I and II verbs, in addition to occurring with pronominal prefixes, are further 
characterized by their optional occurrence with a number of suffixes indicating time, 
aspect, and derivation. Class II verbs also occur with a number of suffixes indicating 
voice. Following is a description of these verb classes with subclasses indicated. 

1.1.1. Stems of class I and class II. Class I verbs are composed of four types of 
stems and roots. 

(1) Positional verbs consist of a root, generally with a CVC syllable pattern, plus 
an intransitive suffix e' : txale' to lean to one side, meje' to kneel, cxe' to lie down. 

(2) Directional verbs may be used alone, in compounds with each other, or in 
compounds with other class I and class II verbs. Compounds of two, three, and even 
four directional verbs occur. In such compounds considerable changes in the verbs 



occur. There are twelve verbs that belong to this class. The basic forms are listed 
here in the relative order in which they commonly occur: first order, b'aj completion 
or totality; second order, oc to enter, el to leave, jau to ascend, cub' to descend, ic' to 
pass by, cyaj to remain; third order, xi' to go, tzaj to come, ul to arrive here, pon to 
arrive there; fourth order, aj to return. 

(3) Process verbs include: simple stems, tskij to get dry, mal to swell up, xob' to 
fear, cyim to die; adjective plus suffix -ix/-ax or -yix, coxix to become lame, sakdx to 
become white, chi'yix to become sweet; adjective stem or unclassified stem plus suffix 
-t, -b'i, -j, or -wi, yab't to get sick (from adjective yab' sick), sict to get tired (from 
unclassified stem sic-). Few verbs of this class occur in the language. 

(4) RedupHcated stems are two-syllable stems ending in -n, and having the form 
CVCCVC, in which the first two phonemes of the second syllable are a repetition of 
the first two phonemes of the first syllable. Stress is on the second syllable: loklon 
to boil, ch'ipchin to wash the hair, molmon to be nauseated. 

Class II verbs may be either simple or derived. Simple stems are subclassified into 
four groups. Group one simple stems are either one syllable stems ending in V or V 
or two syllable stems ending in V, the pattern occurring with most frequency being 
CVCV. Stress falls on the first syllable, which may contain any one of the vowels 
a, e, i, o, u. The second syllable is unstressed and occurs only with the vowels a, i, u: 
yoH- to speak, ewa- to hide. 

Group two simple stems are two syllable stems in which the first syllable ends in a 
consonant, and the stress falls on the second syllable; the predominant pattern is 
CVC.CV-: b'incha- to make, elk'a- to steal. 

Group three simple stems are probably related to verbs of group two, but they 
deserve separate mention since they are verbs having the pattern CVC.CV- with 
stress on the first syllable; and with one or two exceptions, they occur only with a 
passive or middle suffix -j. The number of forms occurring in the second syllable is 
strictly limited: -paj, -tz'aj -k'ja -cy'aj -chaj. There is some evidence that they carry 
a meaning distinct from that of the verb as a whole in which case the forms -pa -tz'a 
etc. would probably best be described as suffixes fused to a verb stem: wot'paj to 
shrink, meltz'aj to return. 

Group four simple stems are basically two syllable stems of the pattern CVCV 
with stress on the second syllable. The vowel of the first syllable is very short and 
often disappears. Vowels occurring in the first syllable are a, i, and o followed by o 
in the second syllable; or u may occur in the first syllable followed by u in the second 
syllable. In some syntactic constructions an alternate stem occurs as CVC: c'amo- 
(or c'mo-), c'am to receive; tzyu-, tzuy to hold, to seize. 

Derived stems are formed from four types of stems. Positional verbs from which 
the final vowel (intransitive suffix -e') has been dropped, may occur with the causative 
suffix -b'a: txale' to lean to one side, txalb'a- to cause to lean to one side. 

Directional verbs may occur with causative suffix -sa: oc to enter, ocsd- to cause to 
enter, ocsal tc'u'j to advise. 



MAM 181 

Process verbs may occur with the causative suffix -sa: xob' to fear, xob'sa- to cause 
to fear, to threaten. 

Adjectives may occur with the causative suffix -sa: sak white, saksa to make white. 

1.1.2. Inflection of class I and class II verbs. There are two sets of prefixes indica- 
ting person. Both sets occur as subject of class I verbs and as subject or object of 
class II verbs as determined by syntactic structure. Set one prefixes are also used as 
possessive prefixes to nouns. In the following Usts, a diagonal between two prefixes 
indicates that the first occurs before consonants, the second before vowels. 

Set one prefixes include the following: n-/w- 1st per s. sg., t- 2nd and 3rd per s. sg. 
k- 1st pers. pL, cy- 2nd and 3rd per s. pi. 

Set two prefixes occur in three series, the use of which is determined by sentence 
structure. The sign # indicates that there is no prefix present: 
chin- in- xin- 1st pers. sg. 

#-/tz'- or tz- #- x-/s- 2nd and 3rd pers. sg. 
ko'- o'- xko'- lstpers.pl. 

che'- e'- xe'- 2nd and 3rd pers. pi. 

The first series of prefixes (chin- etc.) are generally preceded by some word indicating 
time or aspect, except in the imperative. The second series (in- etc.) are used when 
no such time-aspect particles precede the verb; in this case they indicate past time. 
The third series (xin- etc.) appear to be a combination of the prefix x-, indicating 
recent past time, and the personal prefixes of series one. The second person singular 
prefix tz- occurs only with the verbs ul to arrive here, and ic' to pass by; tz'- occurs 
with all others. 

Distinctions between persons which are not indicated by the prefixes are shown by 
a clitic -e/-ye alternating freely in some dialects with -a/-ya. In other dialects such as 
that of San Juan Ostuncalco, -a/-ya is used only with the second person singular, 
-e/-ye for other persons. The forms -a and -e follow consonants; the forms -ya and 
-ye follow vowels: ma nb'inchiyQ I have made it, ma kb'inchd we, including you, have 
made it, inb'ete / walked, b'eta you walked. First person plural may be either exclu- 
sive or inclusive. The form which occurs with the clitic -e/-ye excludes the listener. 
The form without the clitic includes both the speaker and the hstener: ob'ete we, 
not you, walked, ob'et we, including you, walked. 

Inflectional suffixes of class I and II verbs occur in two orders: (1) suffixes of voice 
or aspect, and (2) the future intransitive suffix. In the description of these suffixes, 
reference is, of necessity, made to sentence structure, particularly to the presence or 
absence of time-aspect particles preceding the verb, and to the presence or absence of 
directional verbs in compounds with other verbs. 

Suffixes of voice occur only with class II verbs. Suffix -n occurs in constructions 
that are both transitive and intransitive and to indicate the intransitive imperative: 
ma yolin he has spoken (msi past time, yoU- to speak), in chec'ayin oj they are selling 
avocados (in present time, c'dyi- to sell, oj avocado). 



Suffix -'n occurs with transitive verbs in compound with directional verbs, or 
following the time-aspect particle, in, with or without the directional verb: jau 
tb'incha'n he built it (jau up, t- Srdpers. sg., b'incha- to make). 

Suffix -m indicates the transitive imperative; it occurs as -n in some compounds 
with directional verbs: cyb'inchame you (pi.) do it (cy- 3rd per s. pi, b'incha- to do, 
-m imperative suffix, -q person clitic). 

Suffix -' indicates future transitive action, and follows time-aspect particle, oc (no 
directional verb may occur in this construction). In two syllable stems ending in o, 
the o is replaced by a : oc tb'incha' he will do it. 

Suffix -t/-it/-et indicates passive voice and occurs in constructions with or without 
directional verb. Generally speaking, -t occurs with one syllable stems, -t or -it with 
two syllable stems in which the stress is on the first syllable, and -et with two syllable 
stems in which the stress is on the second syllable. However, usage varies with differ- 
ent dialects: ma c'met it was received (c'amo- to receive, with vowel loss). 

Suffix -njts indicates passive voice and occurs in constructions which have no 
directional verb: tu'n tk'onjts that it be given (tu'n that, t- Srdpers., k'o- to give). 

Suffix -'n indicates passive voice and occurs only in compound with directional 
verbs: ma cub' k'o'n it was put down (directional verb cub' down, k'o- to give, put). 

Suffix -1 indicates passive voice; it occurs only with class II verbs of group four, 
and without a directional verb: ma chetxocl they have been called (txoc or txco- to call). 

Suffix -j indicates passive voice, with the emphasis on what happens to something 
rather than what is done to it; it occurs only with class II verbs of groups one and 
three, with or without a directional verb: ma yupj k'ak' the fire has gone out (yupi 
to put out light or fire, k'ak'^re). 

Suffix -b'aj indicates passive voice and occurs in compounds with directional verbs :^ 
ma txi txocb'aj he has been sent for (txi alternate form of directional verb xi' to go, 
txoc- to call). 

Suffix of aspect, -je', is a repetitive suffix occurring with class I and II verbs in 
intransitive constructions: in b'etje' he is walking around here and there (b'et to walk). 

Future suffix, -l/-el/-il/-b'il occurs with class I and class II verbs in intransitive and 
passive constructions. In compounds with directional verbs, the future suffix is 
attached to the directional verbs, rather than to the main verb. There are some 
irregular forms, but generally -b'il occurs with stems ending in e or e', -1 occurs with 
stems ending in other vowels, -el occurs with stems ending in a consonant when the 
stress is on the suffix, and -el or -il occur with stems ending in a consonant when the 
stress is on the preceding syllable. Preceding the verb is the future time-aspect particle 
oc or one of its alternate forms such as c-; cweb'il it will stop (we to stand), cjawil we' 
it will stand up (jaw, directional verb up). These same suffixes are used to form the 
infinitive; the infinitive follows directional verbs or one or two other verbs meaning 
to begin : xi' yolil he went to speak (xi', directional verb to go, yoli- to speak), octen 
b'etel he began to walk (octen, compound of verbs oc and ten to begin, b'et to walk). 

1.1.3. Class III verbs are distinguished by the fact that person is shown by a suffix 



MAM 



183 



rather than a prefix, and that they do not occur with the time-aspect particles that 
normally precede class I and II verbs. There are two verb stems: k- to be something 
or in some condition, and t- to be somewhere. The suffixes occurring with these verbs 
are -in with 1st pers. sg., -# or none with 2nd and 3rd pers. sg., -o' with 1st pers. pi., 
and -e' with 2nd and 3rd pers. pi. Distinctions between persons are shown by the 
clitics -a/-ya or -e/-ye as previously explained. There are a number of possible varia- 
tions of these verbs: kine /am, ko'ye we (excl) are, ko' we (incl.) are, wa'l kine /am 
standing, wa'la you are standing. In these examples k- is the verb root, but does not 
appear in the 2nd or 3rd pers. sg. Following are the emphatic forms: akine or ayine 
/ or it is I, aya you or it is you, a he, ako'ye we (excl), ako' we (incl), ake'ye you (pi), 
ake they. It is difficult to assign a meaning to the a-, except to say that it occurs in the 
absence of the nouns, adjectives, participles, etc. that normally precede this verb. 

The verb -t- to be somewhere is also generally preceded by this morpheme a-: atine 
tuja /am in the house, ata tuja you are in the house, etc. The 2nd and 3rd pers. sg. have 
alternate forms ta'ya and ta' respectively, which occur when an adjective or place 
word, etc. precedes the verb : b'a'npe ta'ya are you welll (b'a'n well, -pe clitic indicating 
question), nakchak ta' it is far away (nakchak far away). The translations of the 
preceding examples are in the present tense. Actually there is no time at all indicated, 
and they could just as well be translated as / was, I will be, etc. depending on the spoken 
context or the circumstances. 

1.2. Nouns may be divided into two main classes: simple nouns and derived nouns. 
Simple nouns are nouns with noun roots. Derived nouns are nouns which have been 
formed from other classes of words by the addition of certain suffixes. Or in some 
cases it is convenient to describe one class of nouns as being derived from another. 
1.2.1. Simple nouns are of three types: (1) those that may occur with or without 
the possessive prefix, (2) those which do not occur with a possessive prefix, and (3) 
those which must occur with a possessive prefix, or in some cases with a suffix. 

(1) Those that may occur with or without a possessive prefix include the majority 
of simple nouns: b'e road, tb'e his road, chej horse, tchej his horse. 

(2) Those which do not occur with a possessive prefix include such nouns as: ec' 
chicken, oj avocado. Possession of some of these can be shown by an additional word 
as follows: talun ec' his domestic animal, a chicken, tlo' oj his fruit, an avocado. 

(3) Those which must occur with a possessive prefix or, in some cases, a suffix 
include nouns which refer to a person's food, his social relationships, parts of his 
body, or his clothing. These nouns must occur with a possessive prefix, or, if used in 
a general sense, then with one of the suffixes -b'aj, -b'j, -j: -b'aj occurs with nouns 
referring to social relationships or kinship terms and parts of the body: mamb'aj 
father, tman his father; -b'j is used with nouns referring to general kinds of foot: 
wab'j tortillas, bread; -j occurs with some terms for clothing: amj skirt, tam her skirt. 

Relational nouns, in general correspond in meaning to those prepositions of Eng- 
Hsh or Spanish which show location in relation to some other object or person. 



There are some fifteen of these nouns, and they are frequently employed. They occur 
with the possessive prefixes, or in some cases may occur without them, when pre- 
ceded by the question word al who, whom. The following examples are given with the 
3rd pers. poss. prefix t-: toj its inside, in it; tuc'il his friend, with him. 

1.2.2. The second main class of nouns, derived nouns, are those which are formed 
from verb roots, adjective roots, numeral roots, or noun roots by the addition of 
suffixes which change their class to nouns, or in the case of noun roots, to nouns of 
a different class. Following is a description of these class-changing sufiixes. 

Suffix -b'il/-b'l occurs with class II verbs and with a few class I verbs, especially 
positional verbs. The meaning of this suffix is generally place or instrument, although 
with some words it simply nominahzes a verb. The form -b'il occurs after a conso- 
nant, the form -b'l after a vowel: tzalajb'il yoj (tzalaj to rejoice), tk'ukb'il his chair 
(k'uk- or k'uk6' to sit down). 

Suffix -b'il occurs with a few nouns that are kinship terms: mamb'il stepfather 
{-mdim father), c'ua'lb'il stepson (-c'ua'l son). 

Sufiix -b'en occurs with class II verbs, with a few class I verbs, and with a few 
nouns. It has a definite connotation of past time or of action that has already taken 
place: ttz'e'yb'en a burn (tz'e'y to get burned), tb'inchb'en what he has done or made 
(b'incha- to make). 

Suffix -b'etz occurs with a few class II verbs: tMnh' etz petition (kani- to ask for), 
t-ximb'etz his thoughts (xima- to think). 

Suffix -1 occurs with class II verbs, meaning the person or thing which performs an 
action, possibly identical with the infinitive suffix -1: colol a defender (col, clo- to 
defend), b'ixal a dancer (b'ixa- to dance). 

Suffix -j/-aj occurs with class II verbs: chemaj loom (chem to weave), lok'si} purchase 
(lok' to buy). 

Suffix -le'n occurs with a few class I verbs: sictle'n tiredness (sict to get tired), 
mjeb'le'n marriage (mje' to marry). 

Suffix -len occurs with directional verbs and some process verbs, generally referring 
to something that has already taken place. It requires the presence of a possessive 
prefix: ttsajlen since he came (tsaj to come from somewhere), toclen his authority or 
his having entered (oc to enter). 

Suffix -il/-el/-al/-l/-yil/-yal occurs with nouns, adjectives, and numerals. It indicates 
that the thing possessed belongs in a special way to that which possesses it or is part 
of it. It requires the simultaneous occurrence of the possessive prefix: tchc'el his own 
blood (chic blood), ttz'umal his skin (ttz'u'm his leather, tz'u'm leather). 

Suffix -in/-i'n occurs with numerals and requires the presence of the possessive 
prefix: toxin the third one (oxe three), twiikin the seventh one (wuk seven). 

Nouns are inflected to show person, number, and possession. These are shown by 
the prefixes n-/w-, t-, k-, and cy- (the same as those listed for verbs), with the chtic 
-e/-ye or -a/-ya following: njaye my house, tjaya your house. Although the translation 
is given for the singular form for house, it could just as well have been translated in 



MAM 



185 



the plural houses. Strictly speaking, there is no singular or plural form for nouns. 
Number is shown either by the personal prefixes or suffixes in the accompanying 
verb, or by some other word such as a numeral in the sentence: at jun tchej there is 
one his horse, at oxe tchej there is three his horse or he has three horses. 

1.3. Adjectives are hke nouns in many ways. They may function as the subject or 
object of a verb : k'inxa jun sak take a white one (sak white) ; or they may be possessors : 
tjul k'ek the cave of the black one (k'ek black). However, they are distinguished as a 
class by the fact that, as a rule, they do not occur with a possessive prefix, and that 
they may become verbs by the suffixation of -ix/-ax/-yix, as already described in the 
section on process verbs. 

Adjectives may have one syllable stems or two syllable stems ending in -in or -un; 
k'an yellow, al heavy, k'inun rich, tz'umin smooth. 

Two suffixes, -ak and -tz, occur with adjectives. Very few examples have been 
found. They may be described as augmentatives : nim much, nimdk large, nintz very 
big, nintz tnam a big city. 

1 .4. Numerals are Hke nouns in that they may occur as the subject or object of a verb. 
They are like adjectives in that they may modify nouns. Since there are a number of 
features peculiar to them, however, they are described as a separate class of words. 

An optional suffix -e may occur on numbers two to five, evidently meaning plural: 
jun one, cab', cab'e two, cyaj, cyaje/owr; numbers above ten evidence stem com- 
pounding: junlaj eleven, cab'laj twelve, cysLJl^} fourteen. Some reduplication of stems 
occurs as follows: junjun one by one or several, cacab' by twos. A suffix -j may be 
added to numbers two and three to show future time, and a suffix -je to indicate past 
time: ca'j two days from now, cab'eje two days ago. 

Already described under nouns are the numerals with the 3rd pers. poss. prefix t- 
and the suffix -in or -i'n: tjue'yin the fifth one, tcab'lajin the twelfth one. 

1 .5. Participles are formed from a number of class I and class II verbs by the addition 
of various suffixes or the prefix t-. In general they function much as adjectives 
within the sentence, though there are other functions as well. 

(1) Process verbs may occur with suffix -ni/-naj/-nak: nojni/w// (noj to get full), 
ac'ni, ac'naj wet (ac' to get wet). 

(2) Directional verbs may occur with suffix -ni: ocni up the valley (oc to enter), 
ic'ni over there (ic' to pass by). 

(3) Positional verbs may occur with suffix -l/-ch. With verbs that have an 1 in the 
stem, -ch occurs. With all others -1 is used: txalch leaning over to one side (txale' to 
lean to one side), lek'ch/^ir away (lak'e to move away). 

(4) Transitive verbs may occur with suffix -n/-'n. The basic form is -'n, which 
occurs in stressed syllables. When the syllable is unstressed, the glottal stop preceding 
the n is lost or may be transferred to a preceding syllable: tz'ib'an it is written (tz'ib'a- 
to write), xi'man it is thought (xima- to think). Participles of this class may also occur 



186 MAM 

with a suffix -maj already: c'lo'maj already tied, tz'ib'amaj already written. There is 
no indication of specific time in these participles. 

(5) Directional verbs may occur with the third person singular prefix t- : toe to be 
on (oc to enter), toe ti'j twex it is on his trousers. 

(6) Reduplicated forms may be derived from process verbs ending in -b'i or -t, 
and from a few unclassified stems. These are two syllable words, generally CVC.CVC, 
in which the first phoneme of the second syllable is a repetition of the first phoneme 
of the first syllable; the last two phonemes are -aj or -oj: mek'maj warm (mek't to 
get warm), c'ixc'oj pain (c'ixb'i to get hurt). 

(7) Three syllable reduplicated forms may be derived from a number of class I 
verbs. The stem is CVC. If we number these phonemes 123, the pattern of repetition 
is 123232n: jiHlin slippery (jil- to slide), paxaxan breakable (pax to break in pieces). 
This same participial construction also functions as a verb: in chewut'ut'un they are 
all talking at once, in lac'ac'an tic' it went crawling along sticking to (the wall). 

(8) Directional verbs may occur with the suffix -1: cub'l steev downhill fcub' down). 
1.6. Time-aspect particles. The description of this and the following classes of words 
is based chiefly on their function in the sentence. Most of the words classified as 
time-aspect particles, place words, clause introducers, etc. are particles: that is, they 
do not occur with either prefixes or suffixes. However, since their functions vary 
widely in the sentence, it seems best to classify them on the basis of function. 

Time-aspect particles occur as modifiers of verbs and are obligatory in most sen- 
tences with class I and class II verbs. Many of them occur regularly with a clitic 
attached. There are a number of subclasses as follows. 

Time-aspect particles which occur only preposed to the verb include: those which 
are followed by set one verb prefixes (see 1.1.2.): tu'n tnoj that it may get full, ch'ix 
tnoj it will soon get full; those which are followed by set two verb prefixes: in chinb'ete 
/ am walking, ma chenoj they have gotten full, those which are followed either by set 
one verb prefixes or by set two verb prefixes: tej kex when we went out, tej xko' ex 
when we went out recently. 

Time-aspect particles which may occur either before or after the verb are of two 
types: those which specifically denote past or future time, such as ew yesterday, 
nchi'j tomorrow, and those in which the matter of time is only relative, such as prim 
morning, kale afternoon. Following those particles which specifically denote past or 
future time, set two verb prefixes are used: ew chinule / came yesterday, nchi'j tx'exa 
you will go out tomorrow. Following those particles which denote relative time, 
either set one or set two verb prefixes may occur, with corresponding diff'erence in 
time meaning: prim tz'ex he will go out in the morning (future), prim sex he went out 
this morning (recent past), prim tex he went out in the morning (remote past). When 
the time particle follows the verb instead of preceding it, there is a change in the verb. 
Compare the following examples with those just given : inule ew / came yesterday, 
quelexa nchi'j you will go out tomorrow. 



MAM 187 

1.7. Place words. There are very few of these particles, as location is more frequently 
expressed by relational nouns (see 1.2.1.): lu or lu' here, this; tzalu' here; ma chix or 
chix there; nikayin or nika' near; nakchak/ar. 

1.8. Clause introducers are of two general types of words: question words and non- 
question words. Most of these are particles; some forms are combined with a follow- 
ing noun. Question words include: jte' how many, njic'pun how much, ti' what, ja 
where, etc. Non-question words include the following, several of which are loans from 
Spanish, and some of which occur with cUtics: halo perhaps (lo, clitic meaning doubt); 
ka if; kapelo perhaps (chtics pe and lo); nok wit //, in conditions contrary to fact 
(clitic wit); entons then, etc. 

1.9. Miscellaneous particles include the negative particles, answer words, and others: 
mi'n negative imperative, mya negative (before nouns, adjectives, numerals and 
participles), mix alo no one, cu yes (in answer to commands or a goodbye), je'c how 
goes itl or / don't know (in answer to a question), o'cx only, aj, particle denoting 
profession or origin, aj tz'ib'al a writer. 

1 .10. Clitics are best described as a class of bound particles. That is, they never occur 
alone, but are always postposed to some word of another class. Like most classes of 
words, there is some freedom as to where they may occur in the sentence. Unlike 
suffixes, which are strictly limited as to the class or classes of words with which they 
may occur, clitics are used with all the word classes of Mam : lo doubt or probability, 
nchi'jlo probably tomorrow; wit condition contrary to fact, nokwit at if there were 
some; na of course, mana pax it has indeed split open; chak distributive, jte'chak how 
many apiece; tok various aspects of time, yab'tok he was sick, otok tzul he had already 
come. 

2.0. Sentence structure. The following discussion of sentence structure has been 
based on several folk stories recorded on tape by Pascual Lopez of Ixtahuacan, 
Huehuetenango. Illustrations are drawn from these texts, particularly from the story 
on the origin of animals, part of which is given at the end of this chapter. 

These stories are made up almost altogether of short sentences or clauses. Long 
sentences seldom occur. Most sentences end with a falling intonation followed by a 
short pause. Some dependent clauses end with a level intonation. Thus intonation 
and pause help determine the limits of clauses or sentences. A quotative verb chi, 
frequently used in story telhng, marks the end of a quotation and, therefore, of a 
clause or sentence. It may also precede an indirect quotation and therefore mark 
the beginning of a clause. The form ch or chitsun ch, meaning they say or people say, 
marks the end of a larger unit of speech such as a paragraph, and therefore may mark 
the end of a sentence. Introductory words, described in section 1.8. as clause intro- 
ducers, also mark the beginning of a sentence or clause: b'alo jacu cu'-kawa'nte. 



188 MAM 

chechicye xjal perhaps we could plant it, the people said. Here b'alo is an introductory 
particle, the verb cu'-kawa'nte has a falling intonation followed by pause, and the 
quotative clause follows. 

In terms of their relationship to one another, clauses are of two main types: 
independent and dependent. Independent clauses often follow one another without 
any special word to connect them, as in the following examples: (the raised numbers 
refer to the text divisions at the end of the chapter) ^ pero in tzaj yokpajte meb'a ^^n 
xi' ub'il i^attok jun tub'l ^^n xi' ub'il ch ^ but the orphan decided ^^he goes to shoot 
^^he had a gun '^^he went hunting, they say. Where such clauses are connected formally 
by words, these are often loans from Spanish, as in the following examples: ^^pues 
tilb'ilal masat ^^chechicye xjalju ^^porque atsn etz tiyajil masdtju ^^entons ma tilte 
meb'a masat toj xjau ^^ well it is a picture of the deer ^^people say ^^because it was from 
there that the seed of the deer came ^^then the orphan saw the deer in the moon. The 
connecting particle ex awrfmay be used between clauses: ^^pues m b'aj-tpixc'u'n ^^ex 
in japun t'al te chib'j ^^so he cut it in pieces ^^andput it on to cook. Dependent clauses 
may precede or follow an independent clause: ^pues chechicye xjal %a ake tal jil 
tb'akil masat ke Y^r people say Hhat animals are the bones of the deer. The words oc 
and tej, when also introduce a dependent clause: pues jacu tilxiya oc tpona well you 
will see it there when you arrive. 

In terms of their internal structure, clauses may be classified as verbal or non-verbal. 
Verbal clauses are those which contain a verb as the center or base. The verb alone, 
with its prefixes and suffixes, may constitute the entire clause: eb'et they walked, 
intc'ixb'isaya you caused me to be hurt. The verb may also serve as the base to which 
other parts of the sentence are added. It is the study of these various parts that will 
be discussed below: how each part is made up, what class or classes of words it may 
contain, what its function is, and what its relation is to the other parts of the same 
sentence. These parts are often spoken of as "spots": verb spot, subject spot, etc. 

2.1. Verbal clauses. 

2.1.1. The verb spot. It would be impossible, within the Umits of the present 
study, to describe the seemingly unlimited possibilities of verb formations in Mam. 
Therefore, only a broad classification will be given with illustrations of some of the 
possibihties. 

The verb spot is defined as the verb root or root, plus directional verb, plus what- 
ever prefixes, suffixes, and cHtics may occur with it (except for certain prefixes which 
are alternate forms of time-aspect particles). These clitics are included as part of the 
verb spot because the component parts function as a unit. In describing the verb spot 
for class I and II verbs, it will be necessary to mention the time-aspect spot along with 
it. There is a certain concordance between these two spots in that the choice of the 
verb prefix is determined often by the kind of particle preceding the verb. The verb 
phrase, then, is composed of the time-aspect spot and the verb spot as previously 
defined. The particles ma recent past, oc future, and in continuous action, which have 



shorter alternate forms appearing as prefixes to the verb (x-/s- for ma, c-/c'-/#- for 
oc, and n-/m- for in), can thus be discussed with the verb phrase. 

In a study of the verb spot it is necessary to note first of all what its component 
parts are and the order in which they occur. Secondly, we must note what the factors 
are which determine the selection of these component parts and their order of occur- 
rence. There are five such factors. 

The class of time-aspect particle preceding the verb, or the absence of any such 
time-aspect particle is the first factor. This determines particularly the choice of 
subject and object prefixes. Set one prefixes, n-/w-, etc., and set two prefixes, chin-, 
in-, xin- (in three series), have been Usted under verb prefixes. Both sets are used as 
subject prefixes in intransitive and passive constructions: ma che- pon they have 
arrived there, tej cy- pon when they arrived there, e- pon they arrived there. In transi- 
tive constructions with non-emphatic word order, when a directional verb is present, 
either set one or set two prefixes occur as the object; this object is followed in turn by 
the directional verb, by set one prefixes as the subject, and by the main verb: ma che- 
jau k-i'n we have lifted them up. In this same type of construction when no directional 
verb is present, the object is shown by a possessed pronoun following the verb, if 
that verb is preceded by tej, na'mx or other particles of the same class: na'mx tb'in- 
chanteya you have not yet done it. Here -te is the possessed object pronoun; -ya is 
the clitic indicating second person singular along with the prefix t-. 

A second factor which determines the form of the verb spot is the presence or 
absence of a directional verb in transitive constructions: tu'n tb'inchdnteya in order 
that you make it, te being the object. 

A third factor affecting the form of the verb, particularly in commands, is whether 
they indicate positive or negative action: cu texa go out, mi'n tz'exa do not go out. 

A fourth factor affecting the form of the verb is word order. Usually a noun subject 
follows the verb. It may, however, precede the verb for the sake of emphasis, requiring 
some changes in the verb in transitive constructions: tzaj t-k'o'n xjal weye the person 
gave it to me. The time-aspect particle ma may be replaced by an alternate form, 
X-/S-, when a spot that normally follows the verb, precedes it: ma b'ant wu'ne it was 
made by me. 

A fifth factor which determines the choice of prefixes of set one or set two is mean- 
ing. There are a number of particles which indicate relative time, such as prim 
early, morning', they are indefinite as to past or future. Following these time words 
and a few others, prefixes of set one indicate past time, and prefixes of set two future 
time: prim tex he went out early, prim tz'ex he will go out early. 

The above description has been entirely of verb constructions formed with class I 
and II verbs. It remains to mention briefly class III verbs. These are -t- to be some- 
where and -k- to be something. They are relatively simple and have already been 
described in section 1.1.3. 

The verb -t- may occur alone or in compound with directional verbs, as in the 
following examples from the story of the origin of monkeys: yaj kete tm^b'a ja te' 



and- they your - your orphans - where - are theyl (dashes in the translation correspond 
to word boundaries in the example) lu ke tejx twi' tze' there - they - they are up in - 
the top of- the tree. The form tejx is a combination of the form te' they are with the 
directional verbs jau to ascend and xi' to go respectively, here appearing as -j and -x. 
The third person singular form of the verb -t- (at) may mean either he is (somewhere) 
or there is (something), 

2.1.2. The subject spot is filled by an identified subject, such as a noun or a noun 
phrase, which may either follow or precede the verb spot. It identifies that to which 
the subject prefix of the verb refers, and is distinct from it: ^^entons n tzajte xjal 
then - he comes he - person, ^^pues n che-oc-cye xjal wa'l then - they enter they - 
people - to eat. In both examples the noun xjal identifies the person which has already 
been expressed in the verb in the form of a prefix; in the verb tzaj the subject is shown 
by the fact that no prefix occurs, which is the form for the third person singular. 
Actually person is expressed twice in each verb, once as an obligatory feature by the 
prefix che- or by #-, and again as an optional feature by the forms -eye Srdpers. pi, 
and -te 3rd pers, sg. These are possessed pronouns, which may be considered as a 
type of clitic attached to the verb as subject or object. This feature of repetition is 
quite common. 

In order to symbohze the different parts of the sentence (separated by dashes in 
the following examples), S identifies the subject spot, V the verb, and other identifying 
letters mark the other parts which will be presented later. An expanded subject 
occurs in the following example: entons - aketsuncye xjal tajau ja - n chechyon 
then - they people owners of the house (S) - were eating, 

2.1.3. The object spot (O) is filled by an identified object, such as a noun or noun 
phrase. It may either follow or precede the verb. It identifies the object which has 
already been expressed in some way in the verb : 22pues - netz ttijb'an - meb'a - masat 
so - he shot it out (V) - orphan (S) - deer (O); n jauxi tchmo'n - tbakil masat cychib'en 
xjal he was gathering up (V) - the bones of the deer eaten by the people (O). The object 
here is composed of two noun phrases : tb'akil masat the bones of the deer and cychib'en 
xjal the left-overs of the people. 

2.1.4. The time-aspect spot (TA) has already been discussed somewhat in connec- 
tion with the verb spot. It occurs only preposed to the verb. Generally only one 
particle occurs, though a few combinations of two are possible, such as jacu mlay 
perhaps not. These particles fall into three groups: those which are followed by set 
one prefixes as subject in intransitive constructions, those which are followed by set 
two prefixes as subject in intransitive constructions, and those that admit a choice of 
prefixes depending on meaning. 

When no time-aspect particle precedes the verb, prefixes of set two, series two (in- 
etc.) are used. They indicate past time, as well as person. We consider therefore that 
in this case both the time-aspect spot and the verb spot are combined in a verb phrase: 
^^e jo'c-cye - xjal - wa'l they entered they (TA + V) -people (S) - to eat. 

2.1.5. The time spot (T) refers to identified time. It is distinct from the time-aspect 



MAM 



191 



spot just described and may either precede or follow the verb: pero de repent - ma 
pon - jun prim but suddenly - he arrived (TA + V) ~ one morning (T). 

2.1.6. The location spot (L) may be a place word or a noun phrase, etc. It may 
precede or follow the verb or both: ^^porque - atzn - etz - tiyajil masatju - cb'el 
tena - tzalu because - there (L) - it came from (TA + V) - the seed of the deer (S) - 
you will remain (TA + V) - here (L). 

2.1.7. The agent spot (A) may be the relational noun -u'n or a noun phrase. It 
may either follow or precede the verb: ^'lu - jun masat - ma cu'tz - wu'ne here - a 
deer (S) - it has been brought down (TA + V) - by me (A). 

2.1.8. The indirect object spot (InO) may be a relational noun or noun phrase and 
may either follow or precede the verb. These nouns are : -e to, for, from ; -i'j concerning, 
against; -uc' with, to; -ib'aj above, concerning, ^ex - juntl yol - b'i'n - wu'ne - cyib'aju 
tal jil - chite - meb'a - te tya' and- another word{S) - known (V) - by me (A) - about 
the animals (TnO) - he said (V) - orphan (S) - to his grandmother (InO). 

2.1.9. The infinitive spot (Inf) may be simply the infinitive form of the verb or the 
infinitive plus its object. In the examples here it always follows the verb spot: ^^n 
xi' - lib'il he goes (TA + V) - /o hunt (Inf). 

2.1.10. The clause introduction spot (CI) may be filled by one or more particles. 
Those most commonly occurring have been Usted under the section on clause intro- 
ducers: 23entons - ma cub'ul tz'ak then (CI) - it fell down (to earth) (TA + V). 

2.1.11. Direct address (DA): wenn - titsun tkal - tawala - k'a well (CI) - what its 
kind (CI) - your planting (V) - son^l (DA). 

2.1.12. Verb modifier spot (MV) is filled by a few particles and adjectives which 
modify the verb : b'aj ttx'ano'n - wena he pounded them (TA -f V) - well (MV). 

A type of verb clause requiring further illustration is that formed with the verb k-. 
This may be called an equational clause since one thing is equated with another. 
That is, the subject suffix in the verb is equated with something else, which may be 
symbolized by E: ^ake tal jil - tb'akil masat - ke they animals (S) - bones of the deer 
(E) - are (V). 

Words of several diff*erent classes may precede the verb, as in the following ex- 
amples: b'a'n ke' they are good (adjective), junx ke' they are together (numeral), 
nojni ke' they are full (participle). 

2.2. Non-verbal clauses are short sentences without a verb, as in the following ex- 
amples: chjonte thank you, al e ja whose house (is it), lu twaya here (is) your food. 
In the text we have these examples (the form toe is a participle) : ^toc - txlaj meb'- 
ayilte located - beside the one who cared for him; ^pues - meb'atok/or - he (was) an 
orphan; ^^aju - k'inchal - toj xjau that which - (is) visible - in the moon; "pues - 
tilb'ilal masat well - (it is) a picture of the deer. 

Sywulka, Edward. 1966. "Mam grammar." In Marvin K. Mayers (ed.), Languages 
of Guatemala , 1 78-95. Janua LInguarum, series practica, 23. The Hague: Mouton.